A right Royal result..

Brecks within a foot of Doyle, who was presumable about to collapse into a heap on the floor.  Diving git.

Brecks within a foot of Doyle, who was presumably about to collapse into a heap on the floor. Diving git.

Reading – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

The happy sight of Guy Moussi vigourously joining in the pre-match warm up session was counterbalanced before the match by the sight of Joel Lynch also returning to the starting line up.  Forest started with Smith in goal, Lynch, Wilson, Morgan and Chambers in defence, Moussi, Cohen and McGugan in midfield with Anderson and Tyson out wide, and Earnie up front on his own (at least, this is what they appeared to do most of the time).  Optimism wasn’t exactly high amongst the fans, but spirits were quite good regardless.

First half started as many of us feared – Doyle did well to get the ball to Kebe after just two minutes, who somehow conspired – with all the time in the world – to drag his shot horribly wide.  Shortly after former Forest player Gunnarsson headed over after a good run into the box from a mere six yards.  It was looking alarmingly like a case of when Reading were going to score rather than if.  Although Forest had a few chances too, Earnie flicked a throw-in to Anderson whose shot was on target if not particularly challenging for the Reading ‘keeper.

Smith had a couple of saves to make from Rosenior and Matejovsky, with Morgan on hand to scramble away following the save.  Tyson had been down injured a few times and finally was withdrawn having tried to play on after half an hour with Garath McCleary replacing him – and (unrelated, I might add) – this heralded Forest starting to get more into the game.  McCleary worked himself into a decent position but could only shoot over.  Cohen was a little late in releasing Earnie who was forced wide by Pearce before blasting over.

So half time, 0-0.  A shade on the fortunate side, but we’d offered decent opponents – and it was great to see the Moose back on the pitch giving our midfield some much needed muscle.  Cautious pessimism was very much the order of the day, particularly for those in the away end able to see the half time scores coming in – because results elsewhere weren’t, and indeed didn’t, really do us many favours today.  So whilst before the game I would’ve taken a draw gratefully, it was looking increasingly like that wouldn’t really do considering results elsewhere.

The second half started very much brightly from a Forest perspective – probably the best move of the game so far saw Moussi find McGugan, who in turn found Anderson whose pass to Cohen gave him an opening on the edge of the area.  He opted for a curler rather than a blast – it was headed for the top corner and brought a great save from Federici at the expense of a corner for the Reds.  Which predictably didn’t really come to much, however, there wasn’t long to wait for the breakthrough we – whilst weren’t expecting – were secretly hoping for.

Lewis had the ball at his feet on the right hand side, cutting inside a defender before calmly finding the bottom corner of the net with his left foot past the despairing dive of Federici.  The goal clearly filled Lewis with confidence, as he became much more involved in the game and caused Reading a fair few problems – which is why it was surprising when he was replaced by Matt Thornhill.  I’ve since learned he was apparently suffering a slight injury, then that makes it fair enough!

Forest started to characteristically defend deeper and deeper and deeper as the half wore on – although there were some interludes of lovely midfield passing we’ve so missed recently – and it was nerve wracking.  Reading fans were oddly tetchy over perfectly normal amounts of time being taken over throw-ins (indeed, they neatly overlooked the blatant abuse of their multi-ball system that was occurring before they were losing), and somehow the referee found five minutes of added time.  Breckin came on for Earnie whilst we were preparing to defend a corner.

After what seemed like an eternity, the referee blew the whistle and the celebrations started properly – it was a good feeling, the players and management team joined us and frankly, it’s moments like that that make all the travelling, expense and hassle worthwhile.  A cracking performance by the lads – if I were to pick a man of the match it would be between Moussi and Wilson (who I’m normally quick to criticise), both stood out today, I think the Moose edged it.  Although nobody had a bad game – including the oft maligned Joel Lynch, who I thought performed very well.

Reading between the whines..

Sometimes you just think of a headline you just can’t resist, it’s apt too.  Woe is the world of a Forest fan as ever – there was an excellent empassioned piece on LTLF about falling out of love with Forest.  To be honest, I can relate strongly to that – my frequency of updates has gone right down, and whilst one could churn out repetitive moans, it seems a bit overly negative.  The other interesting piece over there was an account of that fateful day at Hillsborough – with the 20th anniversary of the disaster coming up it’s bound to become a topic of conversation.  Generally a conversation that is best avoided, in my experience.

And then, of course, in between the grumbles and moans we have a trip to the Madejski Stadium to contend with.  Rumours around there being freezes on signings, Billy falling out with everyone in sight, compounded by residual pain of the Derby game (for those of you with a strong constitution, this video/song created by a Derby fan actually did make me chuckle a bit – also gutted as that’s one of my favourite songs that will now be mentally associated with the pie muncher).  Well done Kev Moore, whoever you are. 

So, Reading.  Remember the first game of the season?  We played Reading and it was difficult to tell which side had come up from League One and which side had come down from the Premiership.  Well, our seasons have somewhat diverged in perhaps a predictable manner since then.  Having said that, whilst our recent run is all too familiar too us, Reading are potentially in the midst of a slight wobble themselves – two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six – no win in their last three means the Royals will be keen to make up ground on Wolves and Birmingham.  Victory in their two games in hand will put them top of the league.

Coppell has already suggested the game is ‘huge’ – whereas Billy is still very much using defeatest language in his latest charm offensive on the official Forest website.  Not that I’m as down on Billy as some fans seem to be – I get the distinct feeling he has been sold a lemon given our appalling showing in the January transfer window.  I’m not sure why the powers-that-be seem to have held back on cash available, but the whisperings I hear suggest that is what has happened – leaving Davies in the unenviable position of not really being able to add the much needed bodies to the squad that we need.

Given his reputation for fractious relationships with boards, it could be an interesting time of it.  Certainly the silence from the Forest board is deafening – I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to expect to hear from Mark Arthur or Nigel Doughty, to expect an explanation for another bungled transfer window – to understand whether there are funds in place to secure loan signings or whether Billy is just being trotted out to toe the party line on this score too.  I can understand why he comes across as defensive about his culpability, to be honest.

But anyway, Reading.  I shall be amongst the unfortunates in the away end at the Madejski Stadium, rather than go for mobile blog posts – which I don’t think have really been much kop in the times I’ve tried them – I think I’ll stick with Twitter for updates, so get following me on there and I’ll endeavour to update with something cheerful.  Or more bleak moaning, more likely!

McSheffrey, Kenny Burns and stuff..

McSheffrey: Serious target or wishful thinking?

McSheffrey: Serious target or wishful thinking?

That there McSheffrey rumour is doing the rounds again, the winger/striker is recovering from a knee injury and therefore it is thought that Birmingham City would be amenable for him to go out on loan.  Which makes sense.  Indeed, they might even be keen to get him with us in time for him to perhaps positively benefit Forest against their automatic promotion rivals Reading this weekend.  Or, of course, our transfer committee might get themselves involved and kebab the whole deal.

Burnsy has laid into the players in the aftermath of Saturday’s embarrassing result – he makes some good points, whilst perhaps missing the bigger picture.  However, perhaps my lenience on the players was a little over-kind – after all, there was only one player’s difference between the team that lost on saturday and the one that beat Manchester City.  Meanwhile, at the other end of the A52 it seems that young Nigel is still quite fond of us, and needed reminding whose side he was on at the weekend.

In a departure from past contributions, I actually wrote something specifically for Left Lion rather than just rehashing a summary of content from the blog – so if you really want to endure more comment about that game, then click here.  The other thing I meant to mention is that the blog has been nominated for a couple of awards – best blog, and best writer – as have a number of other Forest sites, which is great – so feel free to pop along and vote for your preference (although the voting process does appear to be a bit of a ballache).

And finally, if anybody has any advice on suitable (clean) responses to a number of emails sitting in my work email from Sheep-bothering colleagues, then it would be much appreciated!

Billy set to take on the charts..

As well as taking on Forest’s ineffective transfer committee, it seems that Billy is set to battle on another front too – the music charts!  A new single – the proceeds of which will go to the ‘Billy Davies Second to None Foundation‘ – is available from all good record stores and iTunes.  It is a cover of a song by Shaggy, and is sure to help clarify matters on exactly where things are going wrong at the City Ground these days, and whose fault it is (or rather, whose fault it isn’t!).   Look out for it from Monday 23rd February 2009.

billy_single

Billy planning on rocking the boat?

Forests transfer policy for potential managers...

Forest's transfer policy for potential managers...

If The Sun is believed (which let’s face it, it largely isn’t), then Billy Davies appears to be quickly reaching an accord with a chunk of supporters who seem to tend toward Mark Arthur and/or the much-maligned transfer-committee as the cause of our woes.  And in fairness, I think he has a point – he should have control of player acquisitions – including negotiating the financials.  Certainly it would be fair that he has to work to a budget, that upper limits on wages be placed – but he should be able to out and buy people, shouldn’t he?

Of course, the flipside of this is that we have a manager who’s been here barely a month and he’s already publically slamming the constraints within which he works – constraints which presumably must have been discussed in the (what I suspect was a fairly lengthy) courtship between him and the board before being appointed.  Being interested in football and contemplating taking the Forest job, he must have researched what a damp squib all of our transfer windows seem to be – he must have been expecting these things.

In many ways disharmony isn’t good, but clearly the system that our club operates for transfers doesn’t work in our interests at the moment, with burgeoning rumours that our club is increasingly seen as a bunch of chancers by our peers, offering derisory amounts for players – this is damaging, and could affect future deals with these people.  So perhaps Billy kicking off about this might just prove to be a good thing.  There has to be some good news somewhere, right?  (Thanks to Alan Wood for pointing me at the story).

Worst game in history?

Billy: You and the board have a lot to answer for

Billy: You and the board have a lot to answer for


Nottingham Forest – 1
Derby County – 3

Let’s be honest, it was a dreadful game of football between two dreadfully poor sides, the problem is our side was more dreadfully poor than our opponents, by some margin.  The referee was rubbish, but not in a match-changing way, our inability to deal with set pieces did for us – the first goal saw our defenders looking like statues, the second a barely-contested header in the box, the third – well, Hulse dived like a good ‘un, but there was contact, so it probably was a penalty.  All in all, a shameful afternoon.

The players tried, I don’t doubt that – Earnshaw and Anderson were clearly not even vaguely fit but tried hard, Tyson worked his nuts off – the sad fact is that as a collective, they weren’t good enough.  Davies lamented our small squad, our lack of bodies, the spending power of our opponents.  Hang on, last time I checked we spent £2.6m on a single player in the summer – we have spent big, just on too few players.  Frankly, this result – which feels like a new low – is because of the club’s abject failure to strengthen in January, something they said they would do.

We had a record of no defeat on Nottingham soil to them for 30 years, that has been blown away twice in a matter of weeks.  That is not good enough, regardless of the size of their squad, regardless of our injuries, regardless of whatever other excuses reel easily from the tongue.  It is not good enough.  Billy Davies, Mark Arthur, and Nigel Doughty – you all owe us fans big time for this humiliation you have inflicted upon us.

Upon leaving the ground I had taken some solace in the fact that with ten minutes to go we’d come back into the game, we’d got a goal back – Perch really should’ve had one, and we could have really battled for an equaliser.  It wasn’t until getting back into my car that I realised – with a little help from Robin Chipperfield (yeah, thanks a lot Robin!) that with ten minutes to go, Derby withdrew a player through injury and played on with ten men.  How bloody depressing.

As much as I’d like to, I can’t begrudge them the win – the better team on the day won, marshalled well by Savage, and Hulse upfront demonstrated painfully the kind of presence we lack up front – particularly if we wish to continue pumping long balls forward.  This is a dark day for Forest fans, and with the relegation zone looming large again just behind us, it is perhaps the beginning of many more, how we have managed to go from a promising side with an injury crisis to such a shambles is anyone’s guess – but it doesn’t feel good being a Forest fan right now.

Do you know what the really crazy thing is?  I’ve agreed to go down to Reading next week with a pal, as well!

Forest vs. Derby preview – anyone actually looking forward to it?

Come on you Reds, shove those cutting words down Billy Davies’ throat and prove him wrong tomorrow.

Please.

I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to the match, which does kind of underline the fickle nature of being a football fan – but well, seeing them for the umpteenth time in a few weeks after such a long break is somewhat overkill.  Also seeing their first win at the City Ground in decades was rather irksome.  Coupled with our diverging recent runs of results and well, I imagine one end of Brian Clough Way is feeling distinctly more confident than the other.

Whilst it was quite shocking to hear Davies laying into the squad, having pondered it on and off for a day or so it’s hard to argue too much with him – and let’s face it, it’s no worse (indeed, a lot more complimentary!) than what many fans come out with either in the stands or on the message boards.  Perhaps it will prove to be a motivating message that spurs them on.  We’re still in makeshift mode, Garner joins Earnshaw on the treatment table leaving Tys as our only fit striker of any vague degree of first team calibre, Moussi and Anderson – whilst back, aren’t fit to start I wouldn’t have thought.

On the oppoent front, I’m sure we’ve all noted who has been on form for them.  Slightly more positive news is that Teale is out, who was complicit in two of their goals in our most recent encounter, as is Addison who we’d probably like less if it weren’t for the sterling work of Stuart Attwell in our earlier league encounter at the Sheep Bowl.

I suppose at least the early kick off gives plenty of time for sorrow drowning, no, sorry, must be more positive – celebrating? Perhaps.  I’m definitely not looking forward to it.

Misery after another away failure..

Misery: Plenty of it on offer for Reds fans.

Misery: Plenty of it on offer for Reds fans.

Ipswich Town – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

I’ve been trying really hard not to succumb to many of the prophecies of doom pervading the online world of Forest fan-dom at the moment. It’s nice to at least attempt to be a little bit rational, and maybe even a smidge optimistic – but well, it’s not easy. Our injury crisis was ‘eased’ this evening by the recall of Emile Sinclair and the return from injury of Joel Lynch. If I didn’t really worry about relegation before, I’m afraid news like that I do now, and the noises coming from Forest of late aren’t offering much reassurance.

To compound matters, our next opponents – a team you might be familiar with – completed their preparations for the weekend’s game with a 4-1 spannering of Blackpool. Tonight’s results combined with those played earlier in the week leave us just two points ahead of Norwich, who occupy the topmost relegation place in the table currently. It’s really not a particularly rosy picture to be painting, and no amount of ‘Moussi managed forty minutes in a friendly’ type news is really going to paper over the fact that we’re still way short of the required depth and quality of squad to sustain at this level.

So, yeah, the match. I couldn’t make the rescheduled time for this one, and decided not to listen to it as I’d convinced myself after the weekend that it was unlucky. It didn’t seem to help, but spared my poor finger nails. The official match report is available here, which I suggest you read for a match summary – I can’t really offer much in the way of that. Perch lobbed Smith with a header to give Ipswich the lead, unfortunate! Breckin looked to have equalised, the referee deemed Wes to have fouled the ‘keeper with an alert from the linesman.

The remainder of the half was scrappy with few chances. Sinclair was put on for the second half for Garner – a sad indictment in itself of the barrel-scraping going on at the moment (sorry Emile, but it’s true). That said, Sinclair did start well laying off a chance for Thornhill who forced a good save. Despite some positive play, Forest weren’t able to force a goal – and, perhaps even predictably, were hit on the counter attack after Wright was able to beat Smith at the near post following a cross from McAuley.

Again Forest toiled, McGugan had a chance saved, a corner through the box didn’t have anyone on the end of it, McGugan shot straight at the keeper – eventually substitute McCleary did get the ball over to Tyson who was able to convert the chance from six yards. Thirteen minutes left on the clock, Ipswich had chances, Forest pressed – McGugan hit the post, Tys nearly got on the rebound – and then Ipswich were able to wind the clock down to secure the win.

Depressing times, and optimism in the NFFCBlog camp is at a pretty major low in the run up to the showdown with Derby at the weekend. If folks who were at the game have a less bleak view to share, then I’m sure readers would value them as much as I would!

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t..

Michael Sheen as Brian Clough

Michael Sheen as Brian Clough

I’ve been keeping half an eye on the developments of the film version of The Damned United, in which Michael Sheen will take the role of Brian Clough (or rather, David Peace’s caricature of Brian Clough).  Whilst upon reading Peace’s book I did review my overly negative prejudices towards it, it was a terribly one-dimensional portrayal of somebody I regard as a bit of a hero – but naturally, the film is of great interest too.  The cast list looks very well considered, the trailer looks good (see below), and I must admit I’m looking forward to it.

Rather than watch Derby play United, I’ve been randomly browsing around the internet and found the trailer to the film, which had somehow passed me by until now, which rather inspired this blog post somewhat!  Check out the trailer below, football is generally something that doesn’t translate to the big screen (aside from maybe in the context of live footy in the pub!) – this does promise to do a bit of a better job.

I’m glad I resisted the urge to go along to their casting sessions for extras, as obviously the drawback from a Forest fans point of view is that the story of The Damned United is essentially a fanciful documentary of his pre-Forest days – and any role as an extra would more than likely have been as a Derby fan, well no thanks to that, not even in make-believe and with the promise of an appearance on the big screen!

The film, much like the book, looks interesting.  From clips of the trailer it looks to have at least some moments of light-heartedness which are almost wholly absent on the pages of the book – having seen Sheen take on other roles, he’s a talented actor, as is the strangely prolific Spall in taking on Peter Taylor.  Colm Meaney as Don Revie could prove to be an inspired choice as well.  27th March is the release date, I doubt I’ll resist the urge to pop along to the cinema to check it out, caricature or no caricature, overly-negative or not, it does look like it will make a cracking film.

Oh, and I just had a text message to say that Manchester United have just scored – rarely does that make me smile, it does today!

Reds drop to 19th with Brum defeat..

Forest were unable to maintain the silence at St. Andrews Library

Forest were unable to maintain the silence at St. Andrews Library

Birmingham City – 2
Nottingham Forest – 0

Forest’s tricky run continues with defeat at St. Andrews.  I can only go from reports of friends and the media as I conspired to miss this game and the majority of the commentary.  In front of perhaps one of the few crowds who are harsher critics than our own on their own soil, Forest started well in the first half before fading into a defeat which perhaps most of us expected before a ball was kicked despite City’s poor run of form at home lately.

Early chances were created by Cohen for Tyson, but unfortunately the uneven pitch surface caused the ball to bobble and him to miss the target.  Minutes later Cohen again found Tyson who got to the line and cut the ball back with pace, unfortunately not quite finding either Joe Garner or James Perch, both of whom were on standby in the six yard box awaiting the ball.  Tyson’s pace was causing problems, but so was the appalling playing surface (for them as well as us).

Smith did well with ten minutes of the half remaining to save from a Ridgewell header – diving to his left to parry to Joe Heath who made the clearance.  He wasn’t on the end of a good header by Bent from a Sinclair cross, but mercifully for Forest the effort rebounded from the crossbar.  As Birmingham came to life somewhat and awakened their rather dormant crowd until that point, Ridgewell had another headed effort which Smith was able to save at the far post.  Smith’s final action was to save a Larsson freekick right on the stroke of half time.

Early in the second half Ridgewell should have scored, Smith was rooted to his line (a critism oft unfairly chucked his way – this time it sounded pretty damning) – allowed a free header from four yards out but fortunately for us he put it wide.  Forest seemed largely restricted to counter attacks, on one of these Chambers did well getting forward but into a narrow angled position which wasn’t conducive for the shot he attempted – although it did win us a corner.

Smith was under scrutiny again after punching weakly at a cross, fortunately the Birmingham player to whom it headed wasn’t able to direct his volley on target.  Shortly after the home side took the lead, Forest’s defence playing statues as he was able to find some space and turn smartly at close range to score the opening goal of the game.  Forest reacted by withdrawing Moloney and Garner for McCleary and Newbold, and for a moment looked like they might still be at the races.

Maik Taylor found himself horribly out of position and as Perch got the ball to Chambers, the defender went for goal which the ‘keeper them fumbled almost straight to Tyson, but not quite – the panicking home defence were eventually relieved to be able to clear.  Shortly after this though, the suckerpunch was to come – Fahey did well to get into the penalty area and effectively toe-poked the ball which looped up and over Paul Smith and into the goal at the far post.  Part cracking goal, part flukey so and so.

Birmingham continued to pressurise, buoyed by rare vocal support from the St. Andrews crowd, and Jerome should really have done better – heading over a Sinclair cross from just five yards.  Tyson had another chance to score, but his shot was pushed around the post by Maik Taylor.  Billy’s last throw of the dice was to take of Heath for Breckin and push Wes up front – frankly, it was a desperate plan that had not real impact as Forest limped through the rest of the match with Birmingham in control.

Once again our horrendous frailty in numbers is exposed – I imagine that Billy Davies has probably spoken of this post-match, that we have injuries, a young squad and that Birmingham have a bigger, more experienced squad.  There’s a simple solution to these problems, and if Forest are not scouring the loan market for players who can improve our lot, then we should be pretty worried.  Other results didn’t go to badly for us, and in all honesty I didn’t expect much from this, I’m glad I didn’t go!

I hope you’ve had suitably good Valentines Days, all – and thanks for the Twitter updates, it was much appreciated as I was running numerous errands during the first half away from any form of match updates.  Down to 19th, still four points from the drop zone – but well, we could really use a few more points over our next few games.  Certainly starting on saturday would be nice.